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You Don’t Want Your Child to Just be Happy

You Don’t Want Your Child to Just be Happy

In fact, almost every day you have to make children feel sad.


So many parents say, “I just want my child to be happy.” But that is not the goal of parenting. In fact, the more you try to make your child happy, the less happy they will be.

Children need structure, limits and rules. They thrive on this; it ultimately makes them feel safe and secure. But they don't like them. They don't like being told to go to bed or to leave the park. Teens don't like not being allowed to stay out to wee morning hours partying with friends. Parents have to impose these rules multiple times a day and most kids don't take this lying down. Almost everyday you have to make children feel sad, (take a bath, don’t eat that cake, turn off the computer) to help them feel safe, secure and ultimately happy, healthy and clean.

Not only that, authentic, true happiness stems from feeling capable and competent. Life is tough and knowing that you are able to handle whatever life throws you makes you happy. We need to teach our children be problem solvers so that they feel more invested in their home and family and will be more likely to listen and cooperate.

We need to change our focus from making kids feel happy to making them feel competent

Helping children feel that they have it within them to manage life’s big and little problems is the ultimate gift we can give them. That should be our parenting goal.

We need to change our focus from making kids feel happy to making them feel competent. We want to raise independent, responsible kids. Instead of telling yourself that you want your children to be happy in the here and now, look at it from a perspective of teaching him/her the skills she needs for long- term authentic happiness.

The latest research in raising emotionally healthy kids tells us that not only do children need to feel competent (or resilient), they need to learn self-control and to delay gratification. They also need to feel that they are living a life of meaning. Finally, they need to feel truly needed, that they have something unique to contribute to the world and they, as an individual human being, makes the world a better place.

Children today are coddled and taken care of in ways that they never have been before. Children were instrumental in sustaining their family. Everyone had chores. This gave children a sense of purpose. Spoiling our kids lessens that sense of purpose.

We need to give to our children the precious gift of meaning and purpose that comes through challenging effort and the gratification of work.

When your children have a problem, big or small, this is not a catastrophe. It’s a wonderful opportunity to help them manage and tackle their problem. It is a great time to teach them important life skills, how to deal with big feelings, getting along with others, learn how to get calm.

Happiness is certainly important. But it’s not the goal; it’s a means to accomplish the more meaningful and lasting goals in life. Let’s help our kids feel competent and confident. That is how we can ultimately help our kids be happy.

February 17, 2018

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 4

(3) Anonymous, February 21, 2018 6:23 PM

My parents raised me on the myth that parents don't have to care about their children's' happiness. By age 6, I resented them for causing me to exist in this cruel world.

Anonymous, February 22, 2018 6:39 PM

you missed the point

You missed the point of this profound article. Parents must care about their children's ultimate happiness, but cannot expect that journey to be accomplished without some disappointments. Thank you Adina.

(2) Sharon, February 21, 2018 10:34 AM


"I just want my kids to be happy" sounds much more like a comment regarding adult children. I never heard anyone say it about small children. At a certain point, and it certainly may be beyond 18, a parent has to accept a child's choices, even if they don't agree with them. And at that point a parent really wants the child's happiness.

(1) sarah, February 20, 2018 5:38 PM

getting them to help

great article. so how do i get them to help without nagging or bribing.

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